Author Archives: Yue He Parkinson

Don’t take freedom for granted

I attended the fringe meeting titled “Is International Liberalism dying? Persuading the world that the future is liberal” in the Autumn conference. One panel member expressed a sentence like this: “The reason the Global South countries are not cooperative with the West is so-called Liberal Imperialism.”

Coming from one of Global South countries – China – 19 years ago, I knew different answers, which could be the more realistic ones, yet have rarely been noticed by the West. Thanks to Rachel Smith’s encouragement, I raised my hand up for the first time in this conference, and got the attention of host Christine Jardine MP, to ask: “I am a British Chinese. I took 18 years to learn what freedom is after I moved here in 2004. The West has taken freedom for granted, my question is – Do the South counties who don’t know much about freedom have rights to pursue global fairness? ”

There were a few of the audience who gave me applause, yet stopped immediately, because of no more echoes.  My question didn’t get well received from the panels, the one who answered my question said: “Your question is not what we are talking about.” Yet from what I have seen, her attitude was exactly the problem – Western have taken democracy and freedom for granted.

When I studied International Relations at the University of Bristol, there are two major theories – Realism and Liberalism. The latter is based on the principle of individual liberalism in our party,  and was the leading theory representing then global positive cooperation atmosphere, economic globalization. I didn’t know Lib Dems then and thought Brits were all liberals. I corrected myself this year as I finally realized Labour and Tory both borrowed the idea of liberalism from the Lib Dems. We are the true liberals.

I am a different liberal though. I remember the first year I was in the UK;  a few Brits asked me a question: ‘’Why doesn’t China have democracy?’’. The attitude was like ‘”how come you don’t have such a easy political system?”. I spent my first 30 years in China before I immigrated to the UK. I have always known how impossible it is to have freedom in China. Sometimes people asked: ‘’Why don’t your people fight?’’. I was speechless, at that time I was equipped with a 1.0 generation (1.0 G) of immigrants’ mindset (Mainland Chinese mindset, I set Brits’ mindset as 2.0 G), had never been educated about civil society, never known what human rights are truly about,  let alone known about campaign action, all of which took me about 20 years to learn, until today.

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Given the Chinese spy issues, should I, a Chinese immigrant, pursue a political career in the UK?

After the release of the news last week of Conservative candidates dropped after the MI5 warned they could be Chinese spies, I paused my application to be a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC).

I was shocked and scared. If the political atmosphere is moving to the extreme right wing, I could be a victim for two reasons: my Chinese-immigrant background, and the definition of a spy – the line between influencing British Chinese policy and freedom of speech is getting blurred.

Since I have started to speak the truth about what happened in China from 2022, I have made a really hard decision – not to go back to China to visit my mother, who survived a stroke in 2018, because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is catching foreign spies (which can be defined as “any excuse”). I worried I would disappear in a Chinese airport without any charges, which is normal in China. Now I need to worry if I am safe in the UK. Is the UK still a free land?

Before the Golden Era of UK-SINO relations finished, getting involved in British politics before 2019 was taken as a positive sign for Chinese immigrants who were born and educated in China. Three were encouraged and chosen by the Tory party to stand in the general elections in 2015, 2017 or 2019. Yet now, it’s extremely hard for any Chinese immigrant, not only to become a party member, but also to stand in a local election; furthermore, to be a PPC – a legal position to stand in the general election.

As far as I know, I am the only person from China who is seeking a PPC position. There are three reasons why I am doing this:

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The more isolated the CCP is, the fewer human rights Chinese people have

We liberals have promoted internationalism, yet recently we are in a dilemma – how to cope with China? If we isolate the China government their people are going to suffer from their government and our China policies.

The West is gradually finding a realistic way to cope with China. Not only is China’s help  needed in areas such as climate change and economic instability, but also Chinese people’s human rights will be protected by the non-isolation of China from the West. Their human rights have rapidly gone down to nearly zero: they can only follow the CCP’s orders, but no rights to speak truth, to complain, no way to escape when the economy is going downhill.

I was born, educated, and worked in China before I studied in University of Bristol in 2004. It took me about 20 years to understand democracy, human rights and freedom which are absent in China. My life in two countries told me one truth: British and Chinese society share nearly nothing in common, the conversations between the two counties are very much like Chicken-Duck talk (Chinese slang, means no way to understand each other).

I keep in close touch with my Chinese friends every day. I have watched their life getting worse and worse since Covid-19, but it’s impossible to get my observations published in Western media who require evidence and data.

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